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Devils Lake to rise 2 more feet this year in latest forecast

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Devils Lake to rise 2 more feet this year in latest forecast
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

DEVILS LAKES -- It could take a drought this spring to avoid another record elevation on Devils Lake.

And that's not likely to happen.

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The National Weather Service said Friday that there's at least an 80 percent probability that the lake will reach the 2009 record of 1,451.7 feet.

The chances of it rising even higher are:

- 1,452 feet: 60 percent.

- 1,452.7 feet: 30 percent.

- 1,452.9 feet: 20 percent.

- 1,453.5 feet: 10 percent.

"There's a good chance of Devils Lake rising 2 feet this year," said Greg Gust, warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service in Grand Forks. "If we get the type of runoff like we did in 2009, we could see a 3-foot rise."

That's sobering news to community leaders who have spent the past 17 years dealing with a lake that has risen more than 25 feet and cost nearly $1 billion in infrastructure improvements to deal with the high water.

"We've got a lot of work going on and a lot of work planned," Ramsey County Emergency Manager Tim Heisler said.

Many paved roads in the Devils Lake Basin are built to an elevation of 1,455 feet. With anything less than 3 feet of clearance above the lake, wave action on windy days will splash water onto roads.

About 20 miles of paved roads are scheduled to be raised this year.

"You can't build them up in 30 days," Heisler said. "In certain areas, we're going to have to deal with serious safety issues."

He plans to meet soon with North Dakota Department of Transportation and federal officials to set some priorities and try to expedite the process. While he wants to avoid closing roads, he said it's quite possible pilot cars will have to be used to guide vehicles through water-covered roads.

The flood outlook could be particularly difficult for emergency services, particularly for people living on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation or in Benson County, because high water likely will affect travel to and from medical facilities and other vital services in Devils Lake.

"We've already had deaths in the basin because of the flooding," Heisler said. "I'm afraid we're going to have a disaster on top of a disaster."

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